TEMPE: Police in Arizona on Wednesday released a short video of a fatal collision between an Uber self-driving vehicle and a pedestrian, as investigators probe the accident that has put a new focus on the safety of autonomous vehicles.
The video, taken from inside the Volvo XC90 sports utility vehicle (SUV) that Uber has used for testing, shows the vehicle driving along a dark road when an image of a woman walking a bicycle across the road appears in the headlights.
The woman, Elaine Herzberg, 49, later died from her injuries.
Police have released few details about the accident that occurred on Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, while the SUV was driving in autonomous mode. Uber suspended its self-driving testing in North America after the incident and federal safety regulators are conducting their own probe.
The video shows the vehicle travelling in the right-hand lane of a divided four-lane roadway. Suddenly, the vehicle’s headlights illuminate a woman directly in front of it who is crossing the SUV’s lane with her bike.
A photo released by safety regulators on Tuesday showed that the impact occurred on the right side of the vehicle.
The video also shows the driver at the wheel, who appears to be looking down throughout most of the video. Just before the video stops, the driver looks up and looks shocked.
“The video is disturbing and heartbreaking to watch, and our thoughts continue to be with Elaine’s loved ones,” Uber said in a statement. “Our cars remain grounded, and we’re assisting local, state and federal authorities in any way we can.”
The video is likely to be a key part of investigations of Uber’s self-driving car technology and whether it was ready for testing on public roads.
Although the exact specifics of Uber’s technology are not known, self-driving cars generally use a combination of sensors, including radar and light-based Lidar, to identify objects around the vehicle, including potential obstacles coming into range.
One question on regulators’ minds would be why the sensors did not pick up on the presence of Herzberg, who would ostensibly have already crossed three lanes of traffic before arriving in the path of the Uber vehicle.